Jacob Pope (1851 - 1935)



This page explores what I know of the life of Jacob Pope, born in Camberwell in 1851. Then it outlines why I have come to believe that, following a liaison with Harriet Fisher of Wedmore, he was probably my great grandfather.


Jacob Pope - his life

Jacob Pope was born in Camberwell around 23 March 1851, the eldest son of another Jacob Pope and his wife, Ann. Jacob grew up on Camberwell. In 1851 and 1861 he, his parents and siblings were at 21 Acorn Street, and in 1871 they were at 1 Caroline Place. By then, at the age of 20, he was a porter.

On 15 February 1879 Jacob married Emma Leatherby, daughter of Jeremiah Leatherby, at St George's parish church, Camberwell. The witnesses were Thomas Holden and Sarah Holden. Jacob's occupation was given as a messenger and he seems to have remained as one for most of his working life. The 1881 census shows him still a messenger with Emma at 228 Cator Street, Camberwell. There were no children. Later censuses suggest that the couple were unable to have children of their own.

One child was with Jacob and Emma in the 1891 census - Maud E Pope. However, although she was listed as their daughter, her birth certificate showed that her parents were Edwin James Pope and Mary (formerly Mary Jane Moore). It is difficult to tie down Edwin's relationship to Jacob because of the number of Edwin Popes in the records. Presumably there was a blood relationship, but the dates are wrong for Edwin to have been Jacob's younger brother. Edwin James Pope and Mary Jane Moore married at Camberwell in the first quarter of 1877, and censuses suggest that they parted with all or most of their children. For what reason or precisely when, we cannot know.

The 1891 and 1901 census returns saw Jacob, Emma and Maud at 91 Sumner Road, Camberwell. In 1891 he was an office messenger and in 1901 a railway porter. His occupation apparently did not then change, as he was documented as a former railway porter on his death certificate: he died on 14 Jan 1935 age 83 of pneumonia at 101 Coronation Buildings, South Lambeth Road, Stockwell. In attendance was D Wilkie of 24 Viceroy Road, South Lambeth but I have not been able to find out any more about this person. No D Wilkies are in the 1901 census for the area although there were Wilkie families in Lambeth. As Stockwell and Camberwell merge into one another, it would seem that Jacob never moved far from where he was born.

Emma almost certainly died in the summer of 1903, age 52 in Camberwell, but I have not bought the death certificate to confirm that she was the 'right' Emma Pope. Her health would appear not to have been good, as she never bore Jacob any children. Their daughter Maud was adopted, and I do not know what happened to her. Neither do I yet know if Jacob married again in what would otherwise have been over 30 years of widowhood. 

My great grandfather?

Is this Jacob Pope of Camberwell?My grandmother's children were always brought up to believe that her father was a Jacob Pope; that her mother had died shortly after her birth and that Jacob had left the small baby in the care of her grandmother in Wedmore while he continued his law studies in Paris. No additional information was ever offered or provided, except her birthday of 8 February 1882 and the photo on the right which was said to be of her father Jacob Pope.

It was not straightforward to find my grandmother's birth certificate because no-one of her name and birthdate was in the records. It was a chance record in my uncle's journal which began the long trail of finding answers. He noted that my grandmother had been brought up by Granny Fisher in Wedmore. On no more than a whim, I tried Fisher, and there she was. I bought the certificate and found that my grandmother had been born Maud Amelia Pope Fisher to Harriet Fisher. The space for the father's name was left blank. It was common practice to point to the father of an illegitimate child by using his surname as the second of the child's given names. So Maud's full name went a long way to confirming the story that had come down that her father was a Pope. When my grandmother married, her father's name was given on the marriage certificate as Jacob Pope, and when Harriet Fisher died, her death certificate listed her as the widow of Jacob Pope deceased. Yet in spite of a great deal of searching, no marriage has ever come to light for Harriet, and her only daughter was certainly illegitimate.

My belief that Jacob Pope of Camberwell was the 'right' Jacob Pope goes further than his being of the same age as Harriet Fisher and within easy travelling distance of where she was working at the time. It is bound up with their daughters.

Jacob's adopted daughter was born on 29 Sep 1881, and although her birth certificate showed the names of Ellen Maud Pope, census records confirm that she was known as Maud E Pope or just Maud Pope.

Harriet's daughter was born just a few months afterwards on 8 February 1882. Her full name was Maud Amelia Pope Fisher, but she dropped the Fisher immediately and was brought up as Maud Amelia Pope. The reason for the name of Pope seems clear for the above reasons, and the name of Amelia is clearly after Harriet's mother, Amelia Fisher. Yet there are no Mauds in the Fisher records.

The final piece of evidence which seems to me to clinch the fact that Jacob Pope of Camberwell is the 'right' one is the 1891 census for my grandmother in Wedmore. It reads like identify theft. It should read:

Maud A Pope [granted that the Fisher had been dropped], niece [as she was with her aunt Caroline and her husband Edward Webber], age 9, born Hampton Wick, Middlesex.

Instead it read:

Maud E Pope, visitor, age 9, born London

The real Maud E Pope born in London was listed with her adopted parents in Camberwell in the 1891 census.

So did Jacob Pope of Camberwell have an illicit relationship with Harriet Fisher that produced my grandmother? Or was Harriet so smitten by him that she invented the relationship and her marriage? Or did Harriet know that Jacob and Emma intended adopting a daughter and hope that they would adopt her own illegitimate baby, sired by someone unknown, who she named accordingly? Or is the truth something very different? I cannot believe that we will ever know. It would help if someone could confirm or refute that my photograph is of Jacob Pope, but I suspect that it was merely lifted off a pile somewhere to keep my grandmother's children quiet. The man in the photo looks well-to-do as might be expected of a solicitor; his body is not that of a porter used to handling heavy goods all his life; and none of his facial features are remotely similar to those of anyone in the family.